HL Deb 27 July 1846 vol 88 cc4-27

said, in pursuance of the notice he had given last week, he now had the honour, and he reckoned it no small one, of presenting to their Lordships a petition from one of the most venerable individuals at present left on the earth—he meant Thomas Clarkson. He petitioned the House as the President of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and the petition could therefore be received only as that of an individual; but to him (Lord Brougham), who knew the man, and to all of their Lordships who were acquainted with Thomas Clarkson's great exertions and performances in the cause of justice and humanity and sound policy, he would venture to say, that although the petition came from an individual, yet it would have the same weight as if it came from multitudes. And when he regarded the history of that illustrious person, and recollected that he had, during threescore years, and continued still, though he had attained the extreme verge of human life, steadily, without wavering, or looking back, except to profit by past experience—never deviating from a particular path, but constantly looking forward to the consummation, the end and aim of his labours and of his whole being—namely, the happiness of his fellow creatures, and the promotion of the cause of truth and of justice, surely he (Lord Brougham) had a right to say to their Lordships that there never was before them a petitioner more entitled to their respectful attention. The petitioner prayed that if there should ever be presented to their Lordships a measure for letting in the produce of foreign sugar Colonies, where labour was free, and of our own Colonies, where labour (thank God) was also free, and the produce of slave Colonies— the foreign Colonies of Brazil and Cuba, for they were the Colonies in question—upon equal terms, that their Lordships would turn a deaf ear to that proposition, let it come from what quarter it might, and let it come in the shape of a temporary experiment, or a matured plan of what was called—and miscalled—human policy, that should interfere with the cause which this country, under his guidance, had so long maintained — the cause of putting down the execrable African Slave Trade, and of shaking off, all over the world, the fetters of the slave. He (Mr. Clarkson) declared he was an advocate of repealing all differential duties between foreign produce and British colonial produce, and for letting in all, without exception, upon precisely the same terms; provided the produce of those foreign Colonies was reared by free, and not by fettered and manacled hands, and that the admission of such produce should not renew or augment the horrors of that infamous slave traffic, which, sixty-one years ago, he began to labour for the complete abolition of. It was matter of astonishment to him (Lord Brougham) that their Lordships should be discussing this subject at all in 1846; that it should be a matter of deliberation in 1846 whether they should give encouragement to the African Slave Trade, to say nothing of slavery, for he was now talking of the African Slave Trade. A great measure was about to be propounded by the Government, one of unexampled importance, even in a commercial view; and in a financial view of no mean importance, involving as it did the revenue of the country. Constitutionally, as well as commercially and financially, it was a measure of the last importance to introduce, for the first time into the market of England, at the same terms as that from our own possessions, sugar the produce of foreign Colonies, whether raised by slave labour or the industry of free individuals; and the question was now to be discussed whether we should or should not encourage the African Slave Trade—whether we should revive, encourage, strengthen, and promote that accursed traffic? Why, all they had been legislating upon for years—all they had been discussing with so much eagerness for the last sixmonths—sunk into utter insignificance in comparison with the magnitude and frightful importance of this question; and a new system of policy, commercial, financial, and legislative, was to be propounded to their Lordships, and to be brought forward (as he perceived by the Commons' Votes) on the 27th day of July, being the ordinary period of the termination of the Parliamentary year, and at a period when their Lordships' feelings, not to say their passions, had already been excited by a most important political discussion. The history of Parliament would furnish no second example of this. The question was not a new one: it had been brought forward incidentally in 1841, 1844, and 1845; but it would be found, unless he was mistaken, that it had never been coolly brought forward as the subject matter of debates. There was a sort of under current of party feeling always running on the subject; but the question of the Sugar Duties had now, for the first time, been brought before Parliament on its own merits. It was said that it was better to discuss the question now than to postpone it till a future Session—because it was sure to be carried in the present state of parties, for parties were certainly in an odd state. When there was a scramble, Government generally had a chance of carrying their point. It was, next to the Sewerage question, on which the Cabinet were united—next to the Drainage question, it was the great question of the day. Therefore the Government was content to show that they were agreed on some question. They had a better chance now, because they had been promoting free trade with respect to the home producers, and they were now going to take away the protection from the foreign grower. Better to take time by the forelock when you were deciding it in an empty house, than if you were deciding it in a house which had discussed the question of the Corn Laws. He knew that these men were wise in their generation, to a certain extent: he knew that these men knew, to a certain extent, what they were about—not much: he knew that they had a little portion of that worldly wisdom which often, as it took the place of higher wisdom, was so much more advantageous to its possessor, and therefore he had great fears that they had not reckoned entirely wrong upon this subject, and that he should be found in a minority when that event happened to which Thomas Clarkson in his petition looked forward, and against which doing any mischief in that House he most earnestly prayed. But, oh! if he had the same house which he had before him, and on all sides of him, when the Corn Laws were discussed a couple of weeks ago—if that House could be reassembled, and the Bill which Thomas Clarkson so greatly dreaded was brought before it, he should tell his venerable Friend to be quiet and easy, and take the repose he had so well earned, for that his eyes would not close in death before a victory should be gained over this last attempt in favour of the Slave Trade. But if such was his astonishment at the time chosen for bringing the measure forward, it was the greater when he considered that there could be no reason, except the one which he had given, for settling this question in the year 1846 more than in the year 1847; and that, therefore, there ought to be at once an acceptance of the proposition to take the Bill for a year without debate and without controversy; and then, next year, after they had had time to be well and rightly advised upon these subjects—after they had had time to collect and gather all the information from the coast of Africa respecting the working of the treaties and the operations of the combined squadrons—after they should have had time to collect all the further information touching the growth of the East Indies, and Siam and Manilla, and touching the growth of our own Colonies—and after they should have had time to gather further details, if further details were wanted, upon that most frightful part of the question, the slavery and Slave Trade of Brazil and Cuba—then they might, in the year 1847, advisedly adjust their future and permanent plan; for, surely, common sense and common consistency, and the desire to avoid absolute ridicule for inconsistency, would prescribe that when they were in a hurry they should only take a temporary Bill, and that they should reserve their final and permanent Bill for a time when they were in no hurry. But if this particular period, at which he was presenting Thomas Clarkson's petition, struck him as most extraordinary, he was not the less astonished when he looked at the particular moment chosen for giving up our home market to the slave-grown sugars of Brazil and Cuba—when he looked at the information which the Government possessed upon the subject; and if there was breathless impatience to get through the measure on the eve of the Corn Bill, and before men should come to reflect on colonial interests, because British interests had now been settled—if that had not enabled his noble Friends to examine their case and study their own documents, they would probably take it in good part if he told them one or two things that were in these documents, for the purpose of illustrating how strange and preposterous a proceeding it was to choose this particular time for giving up their hold over the Brazilian and Cuban Governments. Mr. Cooper, the consul, said— There was a glut of sugar which reduced it to 17s. 6d. the cwt.—viz., three farthings in the pound, two or three years ago, and representations were made by the suffering planters and the merchants, their associates, to the Government of the country, to take immediate steps for putting down the African Slave Trade. And why? Because, said the memorial of Messrs. Drake Brothers and Co—whom the Commissioners, whose Report he was reading, represented to be a highly respectable house at the Havannah—by so doing they would open to Brazil and Cuba the market of England—which was the bribe held out to induce their Government to put down the Slave Trade—that they would have access to the English market, and get rid of the glut of Cuban sugar. So it was in Brazil. I have taken considerable pains," said our consular agent, Mr. Cooper, "to inform myself of the feelings of the Government and planters on this subject, and I find that all the most intelligent are anticipating that Her Majesty's Government are opening negociations for the renewal of the trade, and will then demand of Brazil, as a quid pro quo for the admission of our sugars, some agreement for the emancipation of the Brazilian slaves. The proprietors not only seem prepared for but satisfied with such a measure. He had mentioned this with the view of informing their Lordships of the popular impression upon this deeply interesting subject. So that the Cuba men and the Brazil men laboured under the delusion that unless they emancipated their slaves and put down the Slave Trade, the glut of their sugar would never be relieved by its access to the English market—that the British Government would require the abolition of slavery and the Slave Trade as a condition precedent to letting in Cuban and Brazilian sugar, and that they must do the one in order to do the other. O cæcas hominum mentes! How little did these planters of Brazil and Cuba, and Messrs. Drake Brothers and Co., and the people whose general impression was thus recorded by Mr. Cooper, suspect that at the time when they were thus prepared to begin emancipating their slaves as the price of the access of their sugars to our market, they were about to have that given to them for nothing, and to be told, "send your sugars to our market and welcome; they will be received without calling upon you to stop one single negro of the imported wretches of Africa, or to strike off one link from the fetters of one slave in America." How little did they, their Government and people, suspect that at the very time they were prepared to begin to emancipate their slaves and to abolish the Slave Trade, these ill-starred measures were maturing in the minds of our statesmen, and that at the end of this protracted Session, they would be embodied in a Bill and submitted to our Legislature. Now he felt persuaded that he was under no necessity of arguing this question more than he had done. He had said enough: that was his case. Nevertheless, so rife was delusion on this subject, so constant was misrepresentation, so audacious the falsification of facts, and so incredible was the assurance with which false and groundless theories were put forward by the apostles of what was falsely called free trade and political economy, that he was bound, before he sat down, to sweep these cobwebs away. He need not tell their Lordships that the effect of this measure would be to let in an additional quantity of sugar, 30,000 or 40,000 tons of sugar into England, and that these sugars must be the growth of Brazil and Cuba. None would come from Louisiana; to talk of Louisiana sugar being admitted when Louisiana was not able to supply her own market, was nonsense. They had a market at home without any duty at all; would they pay charges in America and freight to England? Brazil and Cuba, if this measure passed, would instantly increase their produce 30 to 40,000 tons a year; and these tons could only be wrung from the earth, justissima tellus, but wrung from the earth by the labour of fettered hands which exist not now in America, which are not in Cuba or Brazil, but which must, as a matter of necessity, be dragged from their homes in Africa, and through the unspeakable horrors of the middle passage, and condemned to perpetual slavery. That was the effect of this Bill; so that it should be entitled, when it came before their Lordships, "A Bill for encouraging by a high Premium the Brazilian and Cuban Planter to bring over from Africa 40,000 Africans"—freemen as yourselves at this moment—for the purpose of making them slaves in the plantations of the New World. But it was said, we are putting it down by force of a Treaty with France, and as the price of slaves had increased by a large per centage during the last few years in South America, it was a proof that few fresh negroes came over. He (Lord Brougham) had looked at the evidence on this head, and he found that there was one year a drought and a hurricane, and another year a glut, and both the one and the other operated in precisely the same direction. The drought and the hurricane lessened the production of sugar, and lessened the demand for slave labour, because the same number of slaves sufficed for the work; and the glut lessened the demand by precisely the same operation, because the planters no longer had occasion to order over more negroes when they found they could not raise sugar to an advantage. He had the Commissioners' Report, dated the 31st July, 1845, and they said that only 10,000 slaves were brought over last year, being less than before the government of Valdez. He regretted to say that the cause was the small demand for slaves and the diminished activity of the slave traders, not the prohibitory measures of the Government. And here he would step aside for one moment to do an act of justice, and express his gratitude as an abolitionist, and his veneration for that disinterested and admirable person, Valdez, the former governor of Cuba. In his time no Slave Trade that could be kept down was allowed to flourish—in his time there was no intriguing, no sordid trafficking, no bartering the governor's conscience and the governor's duty for a secret consideration in the shape of a price for the slaves imported. None of all these things happened in the time of Valdez. Of Lieutenant-General O'Donnell he grieved to say that, whether his name was English or Irish, he was a disgrace to the country of his origin, as to the country of his birth and adoption. As governor, his conduct had been the very reverse of that of Valdez; he was a man who had encouraged the Slave Trade. That during his rule the trade went on uninterrupted either by the Government or the public, he had the authority of the noble Viscount now at the head of the Foreign Department. "These Governments," said he, "notwithstanding all these treaties and obligations, set at nought their engagements, and systematically discard them, while they permit their own laws to be daily openly violated with impunity, and none more so, if so much, as Portugal." Then we are told of another argument: we were threatened with a sugar famine; we were told that there had been such a falling off in the amount of sugar grown since the emancipation of the slaves, that there was no longer enough to supply the consumption of this country. When the question was of pounds, shillings, or pence, or of profit or of cheapness, you had a right to talk of that, and to use that as an irrefragable argument; but when the question was of good faith, justice, humanity, common honesty, and religion, he despised the argument that would state that the famine in sugar ought to be allowed to enter into consideration. But he did not admit it: it was not the truth; it was nothing like the truth. This famine question had not now for the first time this Session been brought forward as an argument. It was urged largely on the Corn question; but never in the slightest degree influenced his opinion, or his speech, or his vote. His noble Friend would bear him out in that, for the best proof of it was that he brought forward his Motion in 1839, long before the potato had been afflicted with malady, and famine had been talked of in the land. This famine, however, was a constant adviser, and a dangerous one. It was a constant excuse to Governments for betraying their trust, and not doing their duty, and to individuals for infringing the laws of property, and appropriating to themselves what belonged to their neighbours. It was proverbial that famine was this bad adviser. The hideous forms of famine, and of two other evil counsellors connected with it, were celebrated by the poet for being bad advisers:— Et Metus, et malesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas, Terribiles visu formæ. These at least prostrated the understandings of some of our Councillors of State, and advised them to neglect their duty and betray their trust. Hunger was not only an evil counsellor, but was a false adviser, and was exceedingly apt to prove its falsehood; after you had yielded to it, like other demons, and sold your souls to it, it turned upon you, laughed at you, and said it was all a lie. [A Noble LORD observed, that the potato disease still existed.] It seemed, then, that as to the disease in potatoes the patient was still suffering; but there was no disease in the sugar cane that he had heard of; and as to famine, there was nothing of that even in Ireland. There were two accounts given of the quantities of sugar now produced. The whole consumption was admitted to be 250,000 tons. What was the production? 125,000 tons from our own Colonies in the West Indies; 80,000—but he took it at 60,000—from Bengal; there were 20,000 tons of free-trade sugar from Siam, Manilla, and Java; and there were from the Mauritius at least 50,000; but it was said to be 60,000. That gave more than 250,000 without going further; therefore, to speak of this as anything like a case of sugar famine was preposterous, false, and absurd. He had seen an account which lowered the amount by 25,000; but where did that come from? Why, it came from the sugar refiners; and of course the sugar refiners, seeing the thing to be as they wished it to be, would lower it as much as possible for the purpose of promoting this measure, by which they would profit in their trade and mystery of sugar refining; he therefore did not go on their estimate, but he took the quantity from the West Indies and the East Indies, which was borne out by the information of his noble Friend the late Governor General of India, and that made the amount nearer 300,000 tons than 250,000. He therefore dismissed at once, as Mr. Clarkson did in his petition, the whole question of sugar famine as bearing at all upon the present case. He believed it would be very difficult for any the most sanguine imagination to form an overestimate of the capacities for the growth of sugar which were possessed by the East Indies. Mauritius and the East Indies of themselves possessed such capabilities that you had only to give them a fair and moderate protection to be sure of an unlimited supply. If time were given for further inquiry these facts could be proved beyond the possibility of a doubt. But he might say that he had already the proofs of them before him, from the returns they had received within the last two or three years. He next came to another point, to which he entreated the attention of their Lordships. It was said, "Oh, your humanity, your philanthropy, is utterly inconsistent! You refuse, indeed, to take slave-grown sugar; but you have no objection to take slave-grown coffee." To which some curious imaginative persons, clothing the matter in a figure, or trying to bring home the matter by an example, said, "You let the poor man have a dish of coffee, indeed, but you grudge him a little sugar to sweeten it." He (Lord Brougham) denied this assertion, and said, in reply, that a mere figure was here relied upon, without an attempt to touch upon a real argument. He would, however, answer this figure, and would say that he did not grudge the poor man the bit of sugar to sweeten his dish of coffee—the poor man should have plenty of sugar, and cheap sugar, too; but he must have it lawfully come by: he must have his sugar of the most exquisite quality, too, in abundance, well and honestly come by, and above all, he must not have slave-made or slave-supplied sugar, which, if he had ever read or reflected upon, he must know is crimsoned with the blood of the African. The poor man should have sugar to sweeten his coffee; but it should be the sugar of free labour, grown by planters, upon the estates of our own free Jamaica, of Guiana, of Trinidad, or of the Mauritius; and, above all, that which was as good and cheaper than the rest, the sugar of the East Indies, of which an unlimited supply was always ready to meet the demands of our markets. He (Lord Brougham), however, admitted he had no right to take an advantage of an unskilful adversary, who, though he had made use of a stupid argument, obviously intended to mean something else. He, however, would now make a better argument for such persons, and he would then answer it. He would take their argument to be this—"You are inconsistent in the policy you pursue. Why not take the same steps against Brazilian coffee and minerals, Cuba copper, and American slave-grown cotton, as you propose in respect to sugar from South America?" In the first place, it was no argument, but the very grossest of all fallacies, to say, when he attempted to argue against a certain admitted abuse, which occasioned the greatest misery and mischief, "Oh, as you don't do away with another cause of similar misery and wretchedness, there is no weight in your argument." His answer to this was simply, that question had nothing to do with the one they were now discussing. They must take the question of sugar upon its own merits; when another measure was brought forward in respect to cotton and coffee, he would then be prepared to deal with those other articles. And that was precisely the argument that Thomas Clarkson used in his petition. He was against slave-grown cotton as he was against slave-grown sugar. Such an argument did not, therefore, apply to the objections of the petitioner, nor to those of the great bulk and body of the people of England, who abhorred this measure. He was not, however, one of those who, for the bare love of an anomalous con- sistency, would strain a principle until it cracked beneath him. There was a wide distinction between the two questions; because it was one thing to have a new measure proposed to him for the first time for admitting slave-grown sugar that was never admitted before, and another to undo the policy already established in the country, in respect to coffee, tobacco, copper from Cuba, and slave-grown cotton which was admitted. He was not bound to undo all that been already done. If this argument were to be deemed applicable to this case, it could be made one of universal application; and he defied any one subject of policy, finance, or political economy—which was, no doubt, a most useful and important science when kept within proper bounds—in respect to which it could not be brought to bear so as to prevent all improvements; and not less so in regard to all amelioration in our laws. Suppose that his much venerated friends, Sir Samuel Romilly and Sir James Macintosh, in their great and immortal labours, which ultimately proved so successful to amend the criminal code, and to introduce humanity as well as wisdom in their laws—suppose that Sir Samuel Romilly, having contented himself first with introducing a measure into Parliament which made freehold estates liable to simple contract debts, was to be met by the argument to which he was now referring; or suppose that in his exertions to remove capital punishment for the commission of those offences which were now no longer capital, he had been met by the argument that was now used against him to-day, nothing could have been more absurd, even though it had been resorted to by such men as Sir William Grant and Mr. Canning. The latter eminent statesman had raised the cry of "the wisdom of our ancestors," a sentiment which Lord Bacon had some centuries previously designated a perfect bull. How absurd would it have been to have met the efforts of these great men to mitigate the criminal code of the country by saying, "Why should you bring forward a Bill to abolish one capital felony when you permit about forty-five others to remain?" Let him entreat of those who considered for a moment upon the subject, to reflect that they were not now upon a question as to the propriety or not of rescinding what had already been done, or as to repealing a law which enabled Brazilian or other slave-grown sugar to come into their markets; he was resisting a proposition to make a law by which the markets of this country would be opened to slave-grown sugar. The promoters of this measure, however, turned round and said, that they had already admitted the principle of such a Bill by taking tobacco, coffee, cotton, and copper, the produce of slave labour. He said that if a Bill were for the first time to be introduced for opening their markets to the latter articles, then, inded, the argument might be very fairly urged as to their consistency in supporting one measure, while they opposed the other. Let any man show him a measure, having the effect of doubling in one year the quantity of cotton brought from the slave plantations in America, and he would be ready to oppose it on precisely the same grounds as the present measure, which would, undoubtedly, double the quantity of sugar coming into this country. Cotton, however, was gradually increased in proportion to the increased population of the country, and could not, therefore, do much harm to Africa; but the sugar could be increased suddenly, and in one year, by the Bill which proposed to admit that which was the growth of slave labour, and which was now excluded. That quantity could only be made greater—not by any lawful means—but by doubling the Slave Trade of Africa. It was now a relief to him, as it would be to their Lordships, in the discharge of the duty he had taken upon himself, to turn aside for a moment from his own feeble and unauthoritative statements, to those of one whose character and whose justice were only equalled by his steady consistency to his principles—a man who could not for one instant be supposed to be warped by any kind of bias arising from any party or personal considerations against any measure proposed by the present Government—he alluded to the Lord Chief Justice of England; and he confessed, that when he reflected upon the high authority of that eminent and great magistrate, and on the pure and spotless life which, professionally, politically, and individually, he had so long led in the eyes of his loving and venerated countrymen—above all, when he recollected that he could be labouring under no bias or partiality against a measure introduced into Parliament by his own political friends, he (Lord Brougham) was much encouraged in the course he was taking, and felt himself mach refreshed by the noble and learned Lord's opinion and authority: Sed me recreat et reficit Cneii Pompeii sapientissimi et justissimi viri consilium. He had that noble and learned Lord's authority for saying that he was grieved at being absent on the present occasion; but his opinions upon this subject were embodied in the following letter:— Holyhead, Friday. When we were talking of the new Government to be formed on the expulsion of Sir Robert Peel's, one observation that occurred to us all was, that it could not go to the country with any great liberal measure at the present time. We forgot the great advantage that a liberal Government would possess in appealing to the people to restore the Slave Trade. What capital speeches may be made, what powerful addresses from the priests of all denominations, what attractive inscriptions for banners and cockades! 'Do as you would not be done by. Do evil that good may come,' the evil unlimited; the good, sordid and doubtful; 'a free passage from Africa to Brazil, the liberty of the lash, &c.' Argument is nothing in this case, the right and wrong are clear. The only question is, whether the right is to be violated, and the wrong done by England, which affects a moral influence over the destinies of the world. Argument is not attempted on the other side—nothing but a miserable deduction from the force of ours: we cannot do all the good, therefore are free to encourage all the evil for our own lucre. By oversight, perhaps by design, a certain amount of evil is uncontrollable and incorrigible; therefore what we can control, correct, probably extinguish, certainly keep down and greatly diminish, we are free to encourage and promote. As to the great experiment to be tried between free and slave labour, I am convinced that it will be decided in favour of the latter. If it was cheaper forty years ago to buy than to breed, so it is now. The experiment never can be tried on equal terms. But, indeed, I take this cloak to be a thin one; and that the real notion is, that slave-trading cannot be put down, and 'common sense' must connive at its continuance, and the feeling against it is either affectation or insane fanaticism. Frequent changes of Government are assuredly evils; but what comparison between the evil of such changes and that of one month's existence of the Slave Trade? What is all that could befall all our parties and their members, compared with the suffering which is inflicted by the success of the slavers? I know these things appear extravagant, but they are the real facts; and our habitual indifference does not disprove them, but shows to what an extent our minds have been corrupted and debauched by this long abuse of our own wealth or power. I blush to read the peddling illustration from receivers of stolen goods, and lament the quarter whence it came. Indeed, I could shed tears at the thought that the triumph which I hope to witness must be gained at the expense of those who still derive all the popularity that belongs to them from the name of Fox. I wonder what Mr. Fox would have said in 1806 if any one had predicted that, after abolishing the trade, England should become the principal fomentor of it, and the principal customer in the market for the sale of human beings. Or in the great year when the Act of Emancipation passed, and England paid twenty millions to those of her sons whom her own evil practice had betrayed into the relation of master to slaves, what if Parliament had been moved to give a new stimulus to the trade, to try a great experiment in political economy at the sacrifice of some generations of negroes! The question of protection fades to nothing beside these considerations; but I cannot help thinking that the withdrawal of it from our countrymen in Jamaica would be an unjust proceeding, both to white and black. I am sorry to write so loosely on a subject like this, and so very tamely on a proposal which moves me far more deeply than any that has been brought before Parliament in my time. Now to go back again to the argument respecting coffee and cotton. Cotton and coffee picking was nothing compared with the labour engaged in the production of sugar, as far as regarded the extinction of human life, and the misery that was inflicted upon the poor wretches so employed; the labour attending the growth of coffee or cotton was inconsiderable indeed compared to the frightful occupation, under a burning sun, of putting the sugar canes into the ground. But, after all, it was not slavery that he was now dragging before their Lordships' attention. He was not arguing now upon the propriety of either receiving or excluding slave-grown sugar, merely from the fear of encouraging slavery. He grieved to know it, but he did know it, that slavery was considered a part and parcel of the national institutions of that country which called itself the freest in the world. With all the love and respect which he had for America, he was sorry to be obliged to believe that this system of slavery was one of her most cherished institutions. It was said that that was their affair, and that this country had no right to interfere with them. He very much, doubted whether they had a right, with a view of discouraging slavery in America, to abstain from trafficking in American produce, the growth of slave labour. In this respect he differed from his venerable friend Mr. Clarkson, who held the opinion that they had that right, and that it was their duty to exercise that right. That, however, was quite immaterial here, for there was no question of slavery before them now—it was the question of slave-trading they were now considering. They were about increasing then quantity of sugar grown in Brazil and in Cuba—that could not be done without encouraging slavery and increasing the African Slave Trade. That was the gravamen of the charge, and which formed the groundwork of his objections to this detestable measure. Amid the misery, the sorrow, the pain, the intense agony which this system occasioned, he would wish to recall to their Lordships' recollection the horrors of the Slave Trade in the fraud, the pillaging, the rapine, and the hunting down of men—the using them like wild beasts, the dragging of them on board ships, and, after treating them so, consigning them to those holds of human guilt and of human wretchedness, the slave ships that crossed the Atlantic. It was enough to remind their Lordships of a fact the most touching of the whole, which, if he had the tongue of men and angels, he could not paint so strongly as to have the effect of a bare recital—which, could he "warble in sweetest strains that ever seraph sang," he could not describe better than in the simplest language of truth. On the death of a friend, he was consigned to his grave with grief and mourning in all nations, especially uncivilized nations, where the people, though they did not see so largely and think so deeply, yet, for the moment, felt more acutely than refined nations, who had more to variegate their ideas and interrupt their emotions. But those uncivilized men, who, at times, were frantic with sorrow at the bereavements Providence had inflicted by the death of a brother, a parent, a child—those very uncivilized men themselves, when they heard in the slave-ship that the body of their cherished relative was about to be consigned to the deep, held it as a festival, exulted over it as if they knew no bounds to their joy, and set no limits to their happiness, because their joy at the relief of their suffering friend was proportioned to the agonies they had endured at seeing him sharing their sufferings. That was the fact. That was the known fact. That was a daily occurrence on board a slave-ship; and it would beggar all description to find one which could more feelingly or more aptly express all the innumerable horrors and all the inhuman crimes with which this traffic was connected. He said innumerable crimes; but the guilt was not confined to the slave captain and his crew, or those who immediately employed them — the guilt was that of those who encouraged this nefarious trade; the guilt was theirs who knowingly, and with their eyes open to the consequences, deliberately, wilfully, and he would almost say feloniously, encourage this system by opening their markets to the produce derivable from this infernal traffic. They pretended that they did not receive the crews which the slave captain brought over; but if they received the sugar of Brazil and Cuba, and knew it to be produced by the labour of the men thus torn away from Africa, and that without these men being brought over, they would never be able to obtain that sugar, surely they would allow him to say that they encouraged the slavedealer to go over and to purchase them, and to bring them back; they gave him the money to pay his men and the food to support them—they were guilty, and accessories after the fact to that infernal traffic, and they were also accessories before the fact, because they gave them notice that they would purchase the sugar, and they received the produce of these wretches after they were brought over. And here, before he concluded, he would say that their own consuls had given them some idea of the state of those Colonies—of the manner in which they treated those men—many of them freemen in Africa, as free as themselves—some of them princes in the country from which they had been forcibly dragged. What did they think of the statement of one of the consuls of Cuba, relative to a plantation in which there were 180 slaves — that in six years they had only reared nine children? That would show them a pretty comfortable state of society. What thought they of the statement of another consul of Pernambuco, Mr. Cooke, to whom he had already referred? In writing to Lord Aberdeen, he said that there was a peculiar species of slavery existing in that plantation, namely, the endeavour of the masters to suppress the intellect, the passions, and the senses of those poor creatures; and the law aided them by its inhuman provisions, in transforming these African men into a state, the degradation of which could only be known in a state of slavery, and which rendered these African men American brutes. He now came to the last topic on which he meant to touch—for many yet remained behind, and he was running over them rather than referring to the various arguments which might be urged against the proposition, if his friend, Mr. Clarkson's fears should be realized by the Bill unhappily arriving in that House—but before he concluded, he must notice another argument, which he confessed astonished him more than all the rest—though not unaccustomed to observe the arguments to which the defenders of wrong-doing, in the exigencies of the case, were often driven to resort. The friends of these measures attempted reprisals—they tried as it were to carry the war into the enemy's country—they made a movement which was vulgarly called "turning the tables"—they essayed to turn their flank, as a military man would say. They said it was not the anti-slavery men but themselves who were the true abolitionists—that they were the people to abolish slavery—they were the true abolitionists—let them but obtain their will, and they would see that the Slave Trade would be abolished effectually. And how? They were ready to admit freely that the admission of foreign slave-grown sugar would encourage and increase the African Slave Trade for a time; but it would be only temporary; and then such was the confidence they had in their own principles of Free Trade—such was their reliance on the principles of political economy—they depended so completely and entirely on them, that they had no doubt the experiment would end in setting up free trade against slave labour, and abolishing both slavery and the Slave Trade. That was their argument. Did any mortal being ever hear so incredible, so monstrous an instance of human presumption, as that any theorist of any kind, any doctor of free trade, any fanatic of political economy, any zealot in these new doctrines, should actually screw his courage and his countenance up to the frightful admission, that, with his eyes open, cognizant of the consequences, aware of what he was going to do, calmly reflecting in cold blood, he should deliberately announce that he would increase the amount of the African Slave Trade, because he had so much confidence in the doctrines of free trade, that he was certain his theory would come right in the end, and that he had no doubt the Slave Trade would be ultimately put an end to. He defied any one to find, in all the history of human presumption and the confidence of human theorists, to find a parallel to that, and yet, again and again had these men said, that they were in favour of admitting slave-grown sugar—sugar grown by means of slave labour and the Slave Trade, which Slave Trade was sure to be increased, and that they had no objection to incur the incredible responsibility—the guilty responsibility of wilfully, and with their eyes open, confessedly encouraging the Slave Trade, because they felt satisfied that their theory would turn out right in the end. That, certainly, would be great comfort for the wretches who were betrayed, and captured, and tortured, and murdered, while the experiment was making—it would be great comfort to them and their friends, that in the third generation the doctrine of political economy would turn out right, and that others would not be hunted, others would not be captured, others would not be murdered! That was the comfort of the theorists. But although there was something truly terrific in that presumption, there was something of a mixture of the ridiculous in the kind of argument by which it was borne out. The ludicrous supplanted the terrible—nothing was so impotent that an argument might not be found to support it; and the impotency of the one equalled the absurdity of the other. It was said that free trade would supplant slave labour. He denied that such would be the case, and he agreed with his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chief Justice, that the circumstances of the case were not parallel. If they took two countries, one peopled with slaves, and the other with freemen, in the same circumstances of character, soil, and every other accessory, he had not the least doubt that the free labour would supplant the slave labour; the produce of free labour would be cheaper, because men worked more zealously and efficiently when free than when they were slaves. But that was not the case here. One country had free labour without access to the African market, the other had slaves with access to the African market. The converse of the proposition was the fact, and slave labour was sure to carry the day; and why? Because those who had been engaged in discussing the question, and who had grown grey in it as he (Lord Brougham) had, who had heard all the arguments on the subject since the question was first agitated in 1786 and 1787, were aware that the main argument on which all were agreed—that the argument which was urged when the question was brought forward in 1789 by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Wilberforce being absent by accident, was, that it was more profitable to work out the negroes. It was frightful to talk of human beings as they would of cattle; but every one knew—and it was a matter with the planters of pounds, shillings, and pence—that it was much more profitable to "work out" the negroes, than to breed and to spare them. And he would remind such of their Lordships as were old enough to recollect the debates, that the illustration of this prince- ple was taken, from the practice of certain postmasters, at the time when posting was more common than it was now, and who found it much more profitable to carry on their business by buying cattle and working them out, than by breeding and rearing their horses. Now, Brazil and Cuba were allowed access to the African market, and there slave labour would most certainly beat free labour. He had done: he had accomplished the task he had undertaken, which was merely to remind their Lordships of the general features of the case. He had occupied their attention at greater length than he had wished to do from the suddenness with which the task had been thrown upon him; for if he had had more time to prepare his speech, he should have reduced it within narrower bounds. He did earnestly hope that their Lordships would not now treat the question as if it was merely one of commercial policy—they should bear in mind that there were involved in it considerations of religion, justice, humanity, and, above all, the national character and credit. He did not think that the question of national honour and credit was inferior to considerations of justice, religion, and humanity; but then national honour, he confidently trusted, was safe in their Lordships' hands, and he felt satisfied that the statements in the petition which he had the honour to present would not to their Lordships be urged in vain.


believed, in common with most of their Lordships, and with the noble and learned Lord himself, that the present was not the fitting stage and the fitting occasion for discussing a measure which was at that moment being introduced into the other House of Parliament, and which was there to receive that full consideration to which it was entitled before it came to their Lordships' House. He repeated, that the noble and learned Lord himself must have been of opinion that the present was the least fit time, the least convenient opportunity, for a debate on the slave question, since he had himself placed upon the Order Book of their Lordships' House a notice for a discussion of that question, and had, in the course of a few days, postponed the notice upon the grounds that it was not yet brought before the other House of Parliament. He admitted that his noble and learned Friend was entitled to take advantage of the incidental presentation of a petition, before the measure had received any consideration from their Lordships, to introduce it at the length and with the eloquence and ability which he always displayed; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) did not then feel called upon to debate by anticipation all the views which his noble and learned Friend had introduced to the consideration of the House. His noble and learned Friend had bestowed a great part of his speech, not in supporting the petition, but in answering the statements contained in it. There was this remarkable fact in the case: the petitioners approached the whole of the subject, and in terms doubtless as sincere and honourable to them as they were unqualified, calling upon their Lordships—not to refrain from the commission of any particular crime, by the exclusion of any particular produce, but—to refrain from any consumption of slave-labour product at all; and they called on their Lordships, as men of principle ought to call upon them, if they believed the principle to be true, to carry it into effect. What had been the whole tenor of the speech of his noble and learned Friend? He had avoided the ground taken by the petitioners, and in his speech he did not call upon them to repeal any of those measures to which he had been a party as a legislator, and to adopt what he conceived to be the better policy; but he urged upon them the most untenable ground on which any nation ever attempted to rest its policy — namely, he threw out principles which were said to be the principles of morality and religion—and then he proposed to limit and qualify the application of their measures to a comparatively narrow branch of their policy, and to place upon that those stains of immorality, which, if they attached at all, attached not to our consumption of slave sugar only, but to the consumption of every description of slave produce throughout the world. He would not now enter upon that point, but would merely take leave to say, that when the day for inquiring into the question came round, he would undertake to show that miseries as great, calamities as horrible, the severance of ties as painful to behold and to consider, were the natural result of that slave cultivation which was permitted and encouraged by their former legislation on that subject, and which his noble and learned Friend did not propose to alter, as any of those horrors which, not for the first time, the noble and learned Lord had with so much eloquence described—the horrors of the middle passage. These were scenes on which he did not mean to dwell; but they were all aware that in countries where slaves were employed in cleaning and cultivating cotton and tobacco, there existed a system most odious and horrible to be tolerated in any civilized country, and as atrocious as any the most fervid imagination could conceive as the result of the Slave Trade. He could not now go into that question. He merely wished to state distinctly that Her Majesty's Government — and himself for one, who was known to be most zealous for the suppression of the Slave Trade—were prepared now, as they had been heretofore, to check and extinguish that trade by all the legitimate means they could employ, by carrying into effect the suppression of the Slave Trade in the high seas of the world, in connexion and concurrence with those nations who might be disposed to join in that great work on principles of morality as well as of policy. But he was at the same time prepared to say, that he thought the people of this country had a right to that free intercourse with the nations of the world by commerce with which they could supply themselves with articles that had now become the necessaries rather than the luxuries of life; and he was not prepared to deprive them of that right by withholding the application of those commercial principles which Parliament had applied to the admission of other articles, both necessaries and luxuries; and while the Government clung to the hope that by persevering in efforts for the extinction of the Slave Trade, they might effect that great service to humanity, they were, upon grounds connected with that very object, adverse to the policy of attempting, by directing their own intercourse with them, to interfere with the domestic institutions of other States, and to deprive them, or to attempt to deprive them, of the right they unquestionably possessed of judging for themselves upon what principles they would conduct their affairs. If any course was more than another calculated to induce foreign States to continue the use of slavery in their dominions, it would be that of year after year threatening them with the cessation of intercourse unless they adopted at once a policy as to their slaves which we ourselves had only adopted during the last twenty years, but as to which, half a century ago, we were equally in error with them. Nor did he confine his remarks, as his noble and learned Friend had done, to Brazil, but he applied them equally to the States of South America, to the mines of Cuba, and the cotton plains of Louisiana, in which there was a destruction of life equal, at least, to any that took place in sugar plantations. He thought that the object they had in view was to be accomplished, not by attempts to control the Governments of other States in their internal policy, but by opening with all that system of free intercourse in commerce which could not exist long without bringing about a sympathy with us both of feeling and of principle, which in its results must at last prove fatal to the existence of that institution which their Lordships all condemned—which we had abolished ourselves; but which we did not claim the right of abolishing in other countries, by holding out the penalty of suspending that intercourse which it was for the advantage of the world, and most especially for the advantage of this country at the present moment, to promote to its fullest extent. When, however, the measure came to be discussed, he did hope to hear from his noble and learned Friend, and those noble Lords opposite who were prepared to agree with him, distinctly, the measure of the morality of this question, and the application of it to the case of each particular country. He hoped, then, to be told whether it was deemed right, in accordance with the principles laid down by his noble and learned Friend, and to be embodied in the Resolutions on which he was to take the sense of the House, that we should receive commodities which could only be produced by slave labour of the very worst kind; whether it was right that we should receive the copper of Cuba, in the production of which arose some of the most horrible heartrending scenes of iniquity that had ever been charged against slavery. Yet his noble Friend allowed that change in the law under which copper was so admitted to take place without saying one word against it. The kind of labour by which that particular article was produced, was the most cruel form of slavery that his noble and learned Friend's eloquence had ever conceived or described. He hoped they would then learn why it was fitting that they should stand upon that ground — why they should continue that iniquity without the courage to rescind the mischief which they had perpetrated, or to abandon the erroneous policy which they had adopted—why they were, year after year, to cling to this iniquity, and reserve all their indignation for the moment when it was proposed to extend the principle which they had sanctioned to sugar, for the purpose of enabling the people of this country to enjoy that which had now become a necessary of life in greater abundance, and to promote that intercourse between nations which could not fail ultimately to soften manners and introduce harmony amongst mankind. His noble and learned Friend had complained of the time at which this measure was brought forward. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) could not see how Her Majesty's Ministers could be charged with being precipitate. Why, since the year 1841, there had not been a year in which an attempt had not been made to bring about an extension of the consumption of sugar. And so far from his noble and learned Friend's allusion to the "sugar famine" being well founded, or that it was itself a thing neglected, the fact was, that for years past every endeavour had been made by the different Governments of this country to extend the sugar market, and increase the supply. After those discussions, year after year, and, above all, after the great and general principles of free trade had been affirmed by the Legislature, it was not deemed right by Her Majesty's Government to leave this question to float on the surface of their legislation, or propose in reference to it mere temporary measures, which, like all similar expedients, could only have the effect of keeping the whole trade and the consumer in a state of uncertainty. They, therefore, thought it right to endeavour, even at that period of the Session, to induce their Lordships to adopt some settled and permanent policy, for which, he contended, the years of discussion which had taken place upon the subject had fully prepared their Lordships. He did not ask them to decide now upon the accident of the question being raised by his noble and learned Friend on the presentation of a petition, and not upon the Resolution of which he had given notice; and when his noble and learned Friend had to address an audience much thinner than he was accustomed to address on all occasions when their Lordships had the advantage of knowing that his noble and learned Friend's eloquence would be heard. He did not doubt that there would be found in that House those who agreed with his noble and learned Friend in thinking that the great interests of morality and religion were at stake; and, on the other hand, that there would be found also those who, not considering those great principles to be affected by this question, felt that the best interests of the people of England were concerned in obtaining for them as speedily as possible the share to which they were entitled in that important article of consumption; and he thought, therefore, that no difficulty would be found on either side of the House in bringing together, when this question should come on for discussion, such an attendance as it would be far more satisfactory to his noble and learned Friend to address than he could have found it on the present occasion. For his own part, he was of opinion that Her Majesty's Government had acted rightly in losing no time, consistently with the fair consideration of the question and the forms of Parliament, in inviting their Lordships to come to a decision.


rose to explain, and was understood to say, in reference to the alleged stimulus given to the Slave Trade by the relaxation in the duties on copper ore, that the increase alluded to had only found employment for one additional vessel.

Petition ordered to lie on the Table.

House adjourned.